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Child Safe Policy - Interacting with children

Purpose

The Victorian Government introduced the Child Safe Standards, which are compulsory minimum standards for organisations that provide services for children (or are used by children), to help protect those children from harm. 

The purpose of the Child Safe Policy is to ensure that all employees, consultants, contractors or volunteers engaged by the department (staff) are aware of the Department of Justice and Regulation’s (the department) commitment and obligation to creating a child safe organisation.

The policy aims to communicate the department’s commitment to child safety, in a way that can be understood by all, including children, and it explains key features of the department’s approach to meeting the standards.

Scope

This policy applies to the following people and organisations:

  • all staff engaged by the department
  • organisations and entities which the department regulates
  • organisations and entities which the department provides funding to.

It applies to a broad range of situations where interaction with children may occur. For example, the Child Safe Policy will apply when staff come into contact with children:

  • in the youth justice system
  • in the adult corrections systems through their parents, carers or other means
  • who appear in court as a child witness
  • through incidental contact (e.g. via home visits, children visiting Justice Service Centres)
  • through services provided by funded agencies.

It is important that all staff are aware of their obligations under the department’s Reportable Conduct Policy, whereby allegations of employee misconduct involving children can be made against an employee even if the conduct occurred outside of their work.

Statement of commitment

The department:

  • is committed to child safety and children’s best interests
  • has zero tolerance for child abuse and will take all allegations of reportable conduct and safety concerns very seriously, ensuring such conduct is dealt with in accordance with departmental policies, procedures and the law
  • will uphold the right of all children who come into contact with the department to feel safe and protected
  • is committed to preventing child abuse by identifying risk early, and removing and reducing these risks
  • will actively work to listen to and empower children who come into contact with the department
  • has legal and moral obligations to contact authorities when there are concerns about a child’s safety, which will be followed rigorously
  • has robust human resources and recruitment practices for all staff and volunteers
  • is committed to providing training and education to staff and volunteers on child abuse risks
  • is committed to promoting cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, cultural safety for children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds, and to providing a safe environment for children with a disability
  • considers the needs of same sex attracted and intersex children and young people, and recognises gender diversity in providing a safe environment.

The department requires all staff to uphold these commitments. The department has specific policies, procedures and training in place that support its leadership team to achieve these commitments.

Department's approach to child safety

This section provides an overview of the measures in place to support child safety across the department.

Building a child safe culture

All staff of the department have a responsibility to support the department’s commitment and obligation to creating a child safe environment.

Child Safe Code of Conduct

All staff must ensure that at all times they display appropriate standards of behaviour towards children, ensuring that children’s rights are respected, they feel safe and protected and their concerns are taken seriously.

The department’s Child Safe Code of Conduct outlines appropriate standards of behaviour by adults towards children. It aims to protect children and reduce opportunities for abuse or harm to occur. It also helps staff by providing them with guidance on how to best support children and how to avoid or better manage difficult situations.

Training and supervision

The department is committed to ensuring that staff have access to appropriate professional learning and training opportunities to develop and maintain an understanding of child safety and prevention of harm. To support staff, relevant training programs, including the department’s induction program, should include appropriate content which outline the department’s expectations and commitment to child safety.

In addition to position specific training requirements, training will be available to staff who are likely to come into regular contact with children. This training will include how to identify, assess and minimise risks of child abuse and to detect potential signs of child abuse.

Recruitment

The recruitment and selection of staff aims to support the department’s commitment to promoting an organisational culture of child safety. The department has robust recruitment and selection processes. The department carries out reference checks and police record checks to ensure that the right people are recruited.

For positions that involve contact with children, recruitment should be based on selection criteria which clearly demonstrate commitment to child safety to assist the department in ensuring that the most appropriate staff are employed. Selection policies and guidelines, including pre-screening activities, are to reflect an understanding of, and commitment to, a child safe environment.

The department’s Criminal Record Check Guideline and Related Policy details the requirement for all prospective / new employees to the department to undertake a National Criminal History Record Check prior to commencement of employment.

All people engaged in child-related work as defined in the Working With Children Act 2005, including volunteers, are required to hold a Working with Children (WWC) Check and to provide evidence that the WWC Check is valid at all times whilst employed by the department.

In addition, positions that may have contact with children due to their working environment are to be assessed as to whether a WWC Check is required to minimise the risk of harm to children.

Reporting a child safety concern or complaint

The department works to ensure all children, families, staff and volunteers understand their obligations and know who to tell if they observe abuse, are a victim, or if they notice inappropriate behaviour. The department takes all allegations of child abuse and reportable conduct seriously. It is committed to ensuring that such allegations are addressed in accordance with departmental processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse.

If an employee has a reasonable belief that an incident has occurred then they must report the incident in the first instance to the department’s Child Safety Officer. If the incident is a criminal offence or, the incident must also be reported to the police on 000.

The following conduct must be reported:

Reportable conduct includes:

  • a sexual offence committed against, with or in the presence of, a child, whether or not a criminal proceeding in relation to the offence has been commenced or concluded, or
  • sexual misconduct, committed against, with or in the presence of, a child, or
  • physical violence committed against, with or in the presence of, a child, or
  • any behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm to a child, or significant neglect of a child.


The Child Safety Officer can be contacted via the People and Culture Helpdesk on 8684 8000.

Please refer to the department’s Reportable Conduct Scheme Policy and A Guide to Implementing the Child Safe Standards for further information on the process for reporting and responding to allegations of reportable conduct.

In order for the department to perform its functions under the Child Safe Standards, it may be required to collect personal information about an employee, consultant/contractor or volunteers  and disclose that information to a third party. Personal information which is collected and/or disclosed about an individual will be managed in accordance with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005.

Definitions

Child Safe Standards as made under section 17(1) of the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005.

Child Abuse means any act committed against a child involving a sexual offence or an offence under section 49B(2) of the Crimes Act 1958 or the infliction on a child of physical violence, serious emotional or psychological harm, or the serious neglect of a child.

Child means a child or young person under the age of 18 years.

Related policy and other documents

Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees 2015

Public Administration Act 2004

Victorian Public Service Enterprise Agreement 2016

Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 

Working with Children Act 2005
Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006

Recruitment and Selection Guideline and Related Policy

Department of Justice and Regulations Child Safe Code of Conduct

Department of Justice and Regulation Reportable Conduct Scheme Policy

Criminal Record Check Guideline and Related Policy Criminal Record Check Policy

Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005

Children Legislation Amendment (Reportable Conduct) Act 2016

Approval

This Child Safe Policy is issued under the authority of the Secretary under section 16K (1) of the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005.

The contents of this document represent the current policy of the department and reflect its current practices and experience.

This policy is subject to biennial review and will be altered (and the alterations communicated to users) as, and when, appropriate in order to ensure that it remains current.

Changes to this policy can be requested by a business unit by presenting a suitable case to the Executive Director, People and Culture.

Contacts

If you believe a child is at immediate risk of harm phone Triple Zero (000)

Child Safety Officer

childsafe@justice.vic.gov.au

Commissioner for Children and Young People

Commissioner for Children and Young People website (External link)

 

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander flags

The department acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and acknowledges and pays respect to their Elders, past and present.